Category Archives: children

Does nature know when school starts?

Summer has been rolling along nicely here in Michigan.  The temperatures have been a bit up and down, but for this state that is normal.  For the most part though it was summer weather, summer wear — flip flops, shorts, tank tops, and sunblock.

Then it became the last week of August.  The temperature turned cooler, people were in a variety of clothing styles, an indication they weren’t quite sure what the weather was going to dole out and were making their best guess.  You would see someone in shorts, then someone in pants, a tank top then a sweatshirt, sandals then boots.  Why?  Because even though it wasn’t “cold” it felt that way to some.

Does nature know kids are going back to school and that temperatures must drop to get children in the mood for school?  Is this a system of reminding parents that if they haven’t purchased that exhaustive list of school supplies they need to handle it now?  How did the school schedule get established in the September to June rotation so that children are attending during the coldest months of the season?

I have learned that our traditional September to June school schedule was established at a time when the United States was a farm-based society and children had to help with spring planting and fall harvesting of crops.  The September to June schedule with three months off in the summer best suited the needs of children being able to help in the fields during the main production period with as little interference as possible in their education.

Even though we are no longer a farm-based society and industrialization has ended the time of children needing to be taken out of school to help with farm duties, the schedule has held pretty close to the traditional rotation for decades.  My statement thank teachers

A number of states have tried to increase the hours of a school day, lengthen the period of time that students attend, and some have attempted a year-round school schedule.  What many places have found is that increasing the number of hours a student attends also increases operating costs for the school district and many can not afford the increase.

The level of learning, length of time a student spends in school, methods for teaching, and every other aspect of education in this country is constantly being evaluated and changes made.   The length of the school year is normally determined by a specific number of days or hours of instruction. One hundred eighty days (180) is the minimum required by many states, five states require more than 180 days, and five states require less than 175 days.  Here in Michigan students are required to attend a minimum 180 days.

So what this all means is that it is now September and for the next 9-10 months there are certain times of day when we may be delayed by a school bus.  We will see children carrying backpacks loaded down with books, lunches, and a number of other necessities for school.   The rotation of school sports, PTO meetings, parent-teacher conferences, homework, report cards, and school breaks is now in session.  Whether nature knows it or not, the school year has begun.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Activities, children, education, exploration, Family, farm, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, nature, parents, school, summer, time, Weather

A Child’s Viewpoint

I recently had the pleasure of watching my grandchildren for a day.  Time with a 2-1/2 year old, 6 year old and 11 year old always brings a few laughs and simple pleasures.

The simple days, when at six years of age it is a tragedy when your younger sister won’t share her goldfish crackers.  Really?  She only has a couple dozen out of an entire bag, not like there aren’t more to put into a separate bowl for him.   The world is once again at peace, all thanks to a few crackers shaped like fish.

Why is it at 2-1/2 years of age you are capable of stripping all clothing off a doll more than a dozen times a day, but can never get them back on.  Of course once the doll is naked it must be dressed, but Grandma must do that.  The doll is dressed, life is good, until thirty minutes later when that doll is once again, for some unknown reason, naked.  And the hours pass by….

Planning for my future residence, Corbin (age 6) “It would be neat if you had a really big house with a space ship on top.”

Why, I ask, would I want a house with a space ship on the top of it.  The answer, according to Corbin, is simple.  “Because it would be cool!”

Okay, so there you go.  My retirement home floor plans are being laid out now.

When you don’t know how to respond to certain announcements, such as Austin (age 11), “Gunther is dead.”

Austin has autism, so comprehension is sometimes difficult, and he had just been dropped off after spending the weekend at his dad’s house, so with the same seriousness in which he expressed this loss I asked “who is Gunther?”

I received a very straight-faced, serious answer, “He is a Zombie.”

Sorry, I had nothing after that.  I guess the death of a zombie, or the creation of a zombie due to death, has a greater impact on some than it does on me.

Prior to the kids coming over and knowing I would have just Corbin and Alexandria for lunch I checked with my daughter to see what the best food choices would be and planned accordingly.    I had purchased the family size Velveeta Shells and Cheese, and let’s face it, as a general rule Mac & Cheese is a kid favorite.  Apparently sometimes this is not the case.

As he sits down to eat Corbin looks at the food and says “I don’t like macaroni and cheese.”

I responded that yes he does, his mother told me he eats it all the time.

Corbin — “Not today, I’m six and sometimes we don’t like things.”

Imagine that!  I thought six year olds were always logical and cooperative.  Guess I got that wrong.

Blowing bubbles, that wonderful outside activity that all children love to do.  The problem is Alexandria (2-1/2) simply doesn’t understand that it would be preferable if I moved the wand away from my body before she attempted to blow the bubbles right back at me.  Of course that is a toss-up with the other option of letting her hold the wand herself and trying to convince her that if she didn’t put her mouth on the wand to blow, she wouldn’t get the icky tasting soap on her tongue.  The results aren’t in on whether more bubble soap made it into the air as bubbles or if more ended up on our bodies due to Alex’s still to be perfected bubble-blowing technique.

Then there is the issue of cleanliness.  When I informed Corbin that he is supposed to flush and wash his hands after using the bathroom he said “you know, I washed my hands yesterday.”

Good to know, can we do it today as well please.  Of course this goes along with the request he wash his hands and him turning them back and forth saying “they aren’t dirty.”

Girls in that regard are so much easier.  I can say “Alex your face is dirty, let’s wash it.” and she comes and stands beside me waiting to get cleaned up.

A day with children is always entertaining, enlightening, and just plain fun.  Blocks, cars, trains, slides, bubbles, a messed up floor filled with toys.  Cracker crumbs, candy, spilled water, and more.  As the day wears on electronic pads filled with games are great for keeping children from killing each other off and/or driving an adult insane.

 

 

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Filed under Activities, children, Coping, Discoveries, exploration, Family, grandchildren, home, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, play, summer, time

Childhood Cravings

I was grocery shopping recently and had a craving for a childhood snack — graham crackers with frosting on them.  I purchased the box of crackers and grabbed what I thought was standard chocolate frosting.  Imagine my delight when I popped open that little container and discovered chocolate mint — double yum!

That got me to thinking about some of the simple things from my childhood that kids today don’t have the opportunity to experience.   Back when I was a child life was more simple.  Summer was spent playing outside.  There weren’t any arranged play-dates set up by parents, we weren’t in day care centers, and our parents did not have us participating in scheduled activities.  childhood - chinese jump rope

We got up in the morning and walked or rode our bike to a friend’s house, rang the doorbell and asked if they could come out and play.  When was the last time a child did that?  Today’s children probably wouldn’t know how.   We didn’t have video games, cell phones, ipads, or any of the other technology that kids today rely on.  So what did we do with our time?  We had fun!

A field behind the house could be trampled down into “rooms” in which we could roll out our baby carriages and play house.  We would lay on our backs and look at the clouds, making determinations on what they looked like.  We played Ring-Around-The-Rosie, Duck-Duck-Goose, Mother May I, Red Rover Red Rover, Tag, Kick-the-Can, and hide-and-go-seek.

We only had three TV channels, and cartoons were a Saturday morning specialty.  Every kid sat in front of the TV watching their favorites.  Between Saturdays we had our comic books to read.   My girlfriend and I would put our comic books into the saddle baskets of our bikes, then read our comic books as we rode our bikes down the street no-handed….and we weren’t even wearing helmets!

childhood - jacksWe would sit on the porch playing jacks.  At one time I was able to handle pick-ups of 20 jacks at a time.  We played a lot.  Do kids play jacks anymore?  Are they even available to purchase?  Ours were tiny metal jacks with a small red ball.    What about hula hoops and pogo sticks?  With a swing of the hips your hula hoop could be forced up to the neck or down to the knees and back to the waste.  Regular jump rope, Chinese jump rope, and hop scotch kept us busy.

I lived in a small town.  We would ride our bikes downtown and go to the library and the dime store.  I did a lot of reading.  Nancy Drew was my favorite, and so was Alfred Hitchcock and Agatha Christie as I got older.   We bought pop in glass bottles out of a vending machine.  Everyone chewed Bazooka bubble gum, and we all loved the little tiny comics that came inside.  Gum wrappers were used to make chains…what we did with those chains I don’t remember.

We looked for 4-leaf clovers.  Flower petals were pulled off one-by-one saying “he loves me, he loves me not.”  Dandelions were held under the chin to see if your chin shone yellow, but I don’t remember why.  If we found a dandelion gone to seed, a “wisher,” we were thrilled….but our father wasn’t if he saw us blowing those seeds out into the lawn.

childhood - pogo stickBack then most people did not have air conditioning.  Windows were open, fans were used.  One strong childhood summer memory does not involve me but my father.  He would mow the lawn and then afterward watch the ball game on TV.  One of my favorite scents and sounds of summer is the combination of fresh mowed grass and a baseball ball game on the TV or radio.

What are some of your childhood memories?  No matter how old or young you are, if you are an adult I am sure things have changed since your childhood.   Do you have childhood cravings?  Do you wish your children and/or grandchildren could experience life as it once was, not as it is now?

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Filed under Activities, backyard, children, Discoveries, environmental, exploration, Family, flowers, freindship, friends, friendship, home, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, play, reality, summer, time

Benefits of Hitting a Brick Wall

When I started this blog my intent was to begin building a reader base and to also write a book about the events that surrounded my husband and I attempting to foster and adopt our granddaughters.  We were denied contact, denied the ability to foster, DHS fought the recommendation in our favor on adopting the oldest child, and the girls were eventually adopted out to strangers, not family.  I wrote about it in Attempted Adoption: An Emotional Whirlwind three years ago.

I also began a memoir at the same time about the events surrounding that time in our life.  I got the first draft of the first four chapters written and then my life turned into a turmoil and I sat it aside.  I have had it tumbling around in my brain and do want to get back into the writing.

At the time I was working on those first four chapters I knew something didn’t seem right but I couldn’t figure out what it was.  I have just completed reading  The Truth of Memoir by Kerry Cohen and now know what was wrong.   I was writing when I was still angry at what happened.  If you write from an angry/frustrated viewpoint you do not treat the people in your book fairly.  I wanted to get back at Child Protective Services, Department of Human Services, Michigan Children’s Institute, the guardian ad litem, the judge…everyone who had a part in denying us our grandchildren.  There were other people who also frustrated me, such as my son’s ex-wife who was addicted to pain killers, which played a roll in the children being taken, and my son who was caught doing home invasions and went to prison for a lengthy enough period of time that his parental rights would be terminated.

When I started the book I felt it important to tell our story, to help people realize that this is a corrupt system and it is a nationwide problem.  At the same time I was out to make those I felt treated us unfairly look bad.  While their behavior may have been deplorable, I still need to treat them with fairness in the book, meaning I need to stress that it is my viewpoint.  I also need to make allowances for the fact that these people were doing their job, and recognize that it can be a pretty horrid job to be involved in.  While emotion is important to a memoir, so is understanding and fairness.

Memoir - not about blame or hurtSo what do I do now?  I pick up where I left off and keep on writing.  When I have completed the first draft I will go back and re-work, edit, and tweak every chapter.  From a legal standpoint I have to determine for which persons I will use real names and which people will have their name changed.  As I work my way through the writing and editing process I may on occasion share a small section here as a post.

My brick wall was life, but in the end it was a good wall to hit when it came to my writing.  I have had time to process the events now.  While I may not agree with the process and outcome, I can now deal more fairly with each person in my memoir.  The benefit of hitting that wall is that my writing will now be better because of it.

 

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Filed under Adoption, celebration, Child Protective Services, children, Coping, CPS, Department of Human Services, DHS, education, Family, Foster Care, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir

The Power of Touch

The other night as I lay in bed for hours unable to fall asleep, my mind began circling and the result is the topic of this blog.  The power of touch is necessary to the well-being of the human soul, it can bring comfort, love, relaxation, excitement, security and more.

Touch - the first languageWhen a child is born touch brings it comfort.  You hold it, rock it, feed it.  You do those things when it is happy, you do those things when it is stressed.  The baby learns love thought the power of touch.  To an adult, there is nothing as unique and cozy as a small infant cuddled up against your neck sleeping.

As the infant grows into a toddler and young child touch makes them feel safe, secure, and loved.  They cuddle in your lap, hold your hand when walking in public places, hug you when you are leaving or have arrived, climb into your bed when they awaken at night.  The power of touch is important to the child’s emotional well-being and growth.

As the child becomes a teen their desire for touch moves away from the parents and more toward members of the opposite sex in their own age group.  Teens are often seen showing public displays of affection — hand holding, kissing, hugging, and more as hormones rage.  Touch is powerful.  touch - every day reach out and touch someone

As teens become adults outward public displays of affection calm down, but the need for them does not.  It just becomes more mature, more private.  Human touch provides a sense of security, love, and connection, especially when shared with a spouse or significant other.

Years ago I read that if you are having trouble sleeping you should touch your spouse or significant other.  Something as simple as placing a hand against their body will help you relax and fall asleep.  I found that it worked beautifully.  Although my husband and I quite often slept wrapped up around each other,  he would normally be asleep before I was in bed.  If I was having trouble falling asleep I would reach out and put my hand on him and usually within a few minutes I was able to doze off.  If he sensed me coming into bed he would roll over and cuddle up with me.  If one of us was sick the other would wrap up around the sick one, bringing body warmth and comfort.  Human touch heals and relaxes.

touch - cuddling relieves depressionThat is why I was writing this post in my head as I lay in bed awake a few nights ago.  My husband passed away fifteen months ago.  I couldn’t sleep and I was laying in a lonely bed.   I missed having someone there to cuddle up to, to touch, to help me relax so I could doze off.

It is important as time passes on and things in your life change that you remember to fulfill those things that are necessary to your physical and emotional well-being.  The power of human touch is important.  If it has disappeared from your life revitalize it through whatever means you deem appropriate.   The power of touch heals, empowers, and fulfills the emotional and physical needs to provide an overall sense of well-being.

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Filed under children, communication, Coping, Family, freindship, friends, friendship, grandchildren, home, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, mind, parents, reality

The Dog Ate My Homework

It was spring, sunshine streaming down, making everything warm, drawing me outside.  The smell of freshly cut grass made me stop, pause and breath deeply, enjoying the clean scent.   Someone had their windows open, I could hear a baseball game blasting on a TV.

My left arm wrapped around my textbook, American Government.  The page of questions to answer, sheets of loose-leaf paper and a pencil lay on top of the book.  At least I could enjoy the beautiful weather while I did my homework.

I saunter through the grass, enjoying the feel of it on my bare feet.  I pick a spot under the weeping cherry tree, its branches full of pink blossoms flow back and forth in the breeze.

I let go of the book and supplies in my arm and they drop to the ground, disturbing the green grass around them.  Not having been mowed yet, the blades of grass bend and curve around the folder and paper.

I cross my ankles and plop down beside my homework, landing in the grass in a cross-legged “Indian style” position.

I flip open the book and begin answering the questions…Name and define the branches of government.  What are the fundamental goals of political parties?  What is the Due Process Clause?  On and on through twenty questions.

I throw my pencil on top of my answers, lay back on the grass and stare at the sky.  The warm sun envelopes me and I slowly relax, closing my eyes.    I feel the breeze grow stronger, I hear the papers in the grass beside me rustle.  I open my eyes and sit up just as a gust of wind whips by, grabbing the sheet with my homework and whipping it up into the breeze.

I spring to my feet but I’m not quick enough.  A dog goes running by and before I can move he catches my homework paper in his teeth as if it were a toy and continues running!  homework-in-dog-mouth

That little homework thief runs like mad, zig zagging down the road, through lawns, around bushes, dodging my attempts to catch him.  Panting, I stop to catch my breath and so does he, just far enough down the road that he can make another get-away when needed.   He watches me as if to say “ha-ha, beat you!”

I take a step toward the dog and he immediately takes off again.  Entering the park he continues at a full run until he gets to the edge of the river.  Dropping my homework at his feet, the dog stands guard over it, tongue hanging out as he pants.

The wind swirls around us, the paper flutters then lifts and before the homework thief could snatch it back I watch it fly out over the river, floating on the breeze.  The speed of the wind slows, the paper drops toward the water, then by luck it lands on a log floating down the river.

As long as the homework stays on the log and I can figure out a way to catch it and retrieve the paper it will be saved.   I walk along the water’s edge, keeping my eye on the log, watching it carry my homework farther and farther down river.

I hear a humm, and it is getting closer, louder.  Oh no!  This is not going to be good.  No, not that!   Hmmmmmmm, and sure enough, two jet skis come flying up river full throttle, zipping back and forth, creating a huge wake.  The water sloshes back and forth, rocking everything in its path.

The log that is transporting my homework rocks back and forth under the pressure of the rolling river water.  The log spins, twists, and my homework flies off the log and floats down into the cresting waves.  Soaked with water, it spins and twists in the beating waves, slowly sinking into the water until it is no longer visible.  Gone forever, wrecked and sunken at the bottom of the river.

So, that is why I don’t have my homework.  It was caught in the wind, stolen by a dog, carried to the river’s edge, blown out over the water and onto a log that got caught in the tossing and turning wake of jet skis and then sunk to its death in the bottom of the river.

The teacher looked at me in disbelief.  Eyebrows raised, lips pursed, and a grin slowly kept across her face.

“That story is so farfetched it has to be true.”

Now what do you think, did this really happen or do I have a very vivid imagination?


Homework: Bring Your Kitty To School.  'My dog ate my homework.'

Author’s Note:  I received a writer’s prompt in my email, which is something designed to get your creative juices flowing.  Usually they don’t inspire me because I am normally a non-fiction writer, but this one intrigued me and I thought “why not?”  After all, it is a well-known excuse and the challenge was to come up with an elaborate story as to what happened to your homework because the teacher didn’t believe the typical “my dog ate my homework” excuse.  A fun break from my normal type of post.

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Filed under children, communication, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, school, Weather, work

Abusive Men are Bullies

I have never suffered from domestic violence, so I can not begin to imagine how those who have gone through it truly  feel.  However I have encountered numerous women and at least one man who have suffered domestic violence in the form of spousal abuse.  I can not understand what makes them stay for years in such a relationship, all I know is that they have a very hard time breaking free of the overbearing, controlling relationship they have been in far too long.domestic-violence-emotional

I recently had dealings with the abusive ex-husband of a client.  It gave me a bit of insight into the man’s conduct, and perhaps some of the reasoning behind their abusive conduct.  It was a bit of an enlightening experience.  I also had the opportunity to see him and his own mother together and realized he was controlled by his mother, and as a result he most likely needed to feel in control of something and satisfied that need by bullying women.

The second thing I noticed is an abusive man does not handle it well when they are unable to bully and intimidate a woman.   The abuser tried to do this with me on the phone 2-3 times and I refused to comply with his demands.  He was not our client.  He was not who I worked for.  So what happened?  When he couldn’t bully me on the phone he showed up at our office.

The first time he remained fairly calm.  He didn’t like my answers, he didn’t like that I would not comply with his demands, and he stormed out of the office.  The second time he was there with his mother, and after a verbal exchange during which I had the person I work for on the phone and relayed his instructions, they stormed out of the office.  But that wasn’t the end.

About thirty minutes later the abuser came back in alone.  By this time another man was in the building but was not visible to the front office.  The abuser was again trying to bully me, making demands, and didn’t like it when I refused to back down.  He was escalating.  He was getting louder and louder, and was puffing his body up to look bigger, more threatening.  I told him to leave.  He did not.

The abuser continued to escalate and the other man in the building heard it and came out to see what was going on.  The abuser was told that he needed to leave, but instead took a step toward my “rescuer.”  At that point he was told “You need to leave NOW.”   The abuser turned and exited the building.

domestic-violence-battered-woman-syndromAfter he left I looked at my rescuer and said “I was holding my own okay” and he agreed that I was, but didn’t like the fact that the man was standing in the lobby yelling at me.  He also felt threatened by the abuser’s body language, and wasn’t sure whether it would escalate into something more.

So what did I learn?  That the abuser is nothing more than a bully.  He didn’t like the fact that I was unwilling to cower and do what he demanded.  He was trying to scare me.  I refused to crumble and he didn’t know how to handle that.  The second thing is he is a bully and a coward.  He tries to control by instilling fear, and when he is unable to intimidate he doesn’t know what to do.  When he took a step toward another man and that person didn’t back away, he realized he had no control and and things were not going to be in his favor so he turned and left.

Since that day I have been jumbling around in my brain the fact that women live with people like that on a daily basis, for years.  Afraid to make a wrong move.  They are beaten and then told it was their own fault for doing something to make the man mad.  They are afraid to make a move, to have their husband/boyfriend find out they have gone somewhere or done something without his permission.  They are controlled by fear.

That is no way to live.  It is a serious problem.  Songs are written about it.  Movies have been done on it.  Years ago a book and movie “The Burning Bed” brought abuse into the public eye.  Songs continue to be written.  Independence Day by Martina McBride and more recently Gunpowder and Lead by Miranda Lambert are only a couple.  While I don’t condone killing someone, the lyrics to those songs convey the desperation and fear in abused women.

If you know someone who is being abused, or believe is being abused, they may deny or lie about it taking place.  There are shelters they can contact to help them when they are ready to leave.  The statistics are daunting.

domestic-violence-2emotionalWhat I learned in a quick internet search is that every nine seconds in the United States a woman is assaulted or beaten; and around the world at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime.  Children often witness the abuse, which can lead to a revolving cycle, both as men becoming abusers because they believe it to be “normal” and women being abused, because they believe that is the way all women are treated.

Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women, more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined.  Domestic violence occurs not just between husband and wife, but also in dating relationships, even in the teenage years.  Nearly one in five teenage girls say they have had a boyfriend threaten violence if the girl broke off the relationship.

The problem is, often women don’t recognize the early signs of abuse.  It can be verbal — demeaning comments, criticism, making the person feel they lack value.  Once a person’s self-esteem has been crushed, they are more easily controlled.

It can be controlling, always demanding to know where that person is, presented as “concern” for their well-being.  There is a difference between casual concern over a person’s well being, a courteous exchange of schedules/plans versus having to know where a person is every minute of the day, what they are doing and who they are with.

Whether is is you who is being abused or someone you know, remember:
1.  It is not your fault that they are abusive, it is their’s.
2.  Children who witness abuse are more likely to grow up to be an abuser or a victim.
3.  There doesn’t have to be bruises for it to be abuse.
4.  There are shelters that can take you and your children in when escaping an
abusive spouse
5.  Abusers are bullies, and bullies don’t abuse people who refuse to cower,
because most bullies are themselves cowards.

Some people are only subjected to verbal abuse, some to physical abuse, some to both.  There is a domestic violence hotline that can be accessed around the clock at 1−800−799−7233. There are local shelters that can take you in and keep you safe.    No one should live in fear in their own home.

 

 

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Keep the Magic

Think back to when you were a child and the magic that Christmas held.  The excitement and anticipation of a visit from Santa.  The traditions that went with the season.

Remember getting toy wish books?  Once they arrived my sister and I would pour over them for hours, looking, looking again, and writing out lists of what we wanted for Christmas.  Inevitably the list was lengthy and mom would say we needed to shorten it down…the agony of it all!  children-become-a-child-at-christmas

Traditions of the holiday stand out in my mind.  Making Christmas cookies and decorating them, followed by eating them for breakfast as we opened gifts.  Decorating the house was always fun.   In the early years we would trudge through the snow at a Christmas tree farm to find the perfect tree, which Dad would then saw down.  Of course they always looked smaller in the woods then they did in the living room.  One year Mom kept saying the trees were too small.  The “perfect” one had to be sawed considerably shorter after Dad brought it in the house, not to mention the fact that it was so big around it stuck out about one-third of the way into the living room from the corner where it stood.  It was huge!

Dad would put the tree into a stand and then we would have to let it sit for 24 hours to let the branches “drop” as the tree warmed up.  After that the decorating could begin…lights, ornaments, garland, and icicles.  The tree decorating was usually stretched out over several days, as we were in school and Mom also worked during the day.  Evenings were spent viewing the tree, seeing a spot in need of an ornament and then finding the perfect one to fit that area.    magic-of-christmas-when-children-are-around

When Hallmark began their dated ornaments Mom started a tradition of purchasing a dated ornament for my sister and I every year.  Those were wonderful to have as we got married and moved out and many of those oldies hang on my tree every year.  When I had kids I kept the tradition, purchasing each of them a dated ornament every year…something I continue to do even now when they are 28 and 32 years old.  Of course I also purchase one every year for each of my grandchildren.  My daughter has also tried to maintain the tradition with her children.

Christmas morning when growing up was always fun.  The discovery of wrapped gifts under the tree.  Going through our Christmas stockings to see what small hidden treasures were there.  Then of course spending the rest of the day playing with new games, reading new books.  Enjoying a day of family fun.

Over time childhood moved into teen years, and we no longer believe.  Gifts become more useful.  Then we become adults and Christmas is nice, but something is missing, at least for a while.  All good things come to an end…or do they?

magic-light-in-a-childs-eyeEventually we get married, have children, and the fun starts again.  This time we hold the magic and enjoy watching a child’s eyes sparkle with excitement when they talk about their Christmas wishes, Santa Clause and the fun of the holiday activities.  We relive the magic through the eyes of our children.

Too soon our children grow, become teens, grow into adults and move out on their own and Christmas once again lacks the magic, at least for a little while.  Then the grandchildren are born and the cycle begins again.

No matter how old you are, keep the magic.  If you have no children or grandchildren, go where there are children.  Watch the lines for Santa, volunteer at organizations that cater to children, work at a toy give-away,  contact charity organizations and volunteer your services.   Keep the magic alive.

Keep the Spirit * Keep the Magic
Look at Christmas through the eyes of a child

belive-in-the-magic-of-christmas

 

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Filed under celebration, children, events, Family, grandchildren, Holidays, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir

GRANDCHILDREN GIGGLES

Grandchildren have a way of making you giggle.  They have an innocent thought process that is blunt, entertaining, and enlightening all at the same time.  They are energizing and exhausting with non-stop movement and questions.  This past Sunday I had the pleasure of spending the day with two of my grandchildren for thirteen hours, of which the last five hours also included their brother.

Alexandria is 18 months old and constantly on the move.  She doesn’t talk; she grunts and points then nods yes or no.  She doesn’t play with toys.  It is more fun to explore and get into things she shouldn’t.  A cup of water is great for drinking.  However when grandma isn’t looking it is much more fun to pour it out on the kitchen floor and sit beside it, splashing in the mini inside puddle that has been created.

Why would brother want the track to his train to remain put together?  Does he really need all the parts of the train?  Apparently not, at least as far as Alexandria is concerned.  Gee Grandma, all the stuff you had in that box you expected to stay there?  I thought it would look much better dumped out all over the floor.

Hey, you know that neat round end table that holds your lamp?  Did you know I fit inside and it can hide me too?  Yep, doesn’t bother me a bit to climb inside and close the door.  Oh by the way, just because I sit in my high chair and put the tray over myself doesn’t mean I am hungry.  It just means I want to watch you prepare my food and give it to me so I can take two bites and be done.  You thought it meant more?

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Alexandria climbed into her high chair and put the top over her lap. Photo by Grace Grogan. Copyright 2016.

Now Corbin, who is five is a bit more independent and forthcoming with what he wants and needs.  And for heaven sake, don’t forget to lock the bathroom door or you may have company.  When the door burst open I told him I was going potty and he isn’t supposed to enter.  “But I needed to tell you something.”

Corbin likes playing a food game on the pad and showing me what he has made.

Me:  “You made yourself a hamburger?”

Corbn:  “No, I made it for a human”

Me:  “You’re a human”

Corbin:  “No, I’m just a kid.  I’m not big enough to be a human.  I’m just a little kid.”

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Alexandria climbed into her high chair and put the top over her lap. Photo by Grace Grogan. Copyright 2016.

Then he looks at my wall in the TV Room.  “Hey, where did the picture of the train go?”

Me:  ” It is on the wall by the front door”

Corbin:  “Why isn’t it on that wall?”

Me:  “I moved things around so I would have something different to look at.”

Corbin then runs to the front to make sure I haven’t lied about the location of the train photograph.  Then returns.

Corbin:  “No.  The train needs to be on that wall so I can see it.”  He can see it where I moved it to, he just can’t see it continuously when sitting on the couch, and Corbin loves trains.

And so went my day.  Then around 5:30 pm Austin, who is 10, was dropped off at my house.  As long as both pads were working and I kept the TV on a kids movie things were relatively quiet.  However they are brothers.  Peace can only last so long, especially when the younger one is a tease.   I did manage to keep the war zone at a fairly peaceful level for the next five hours, thanks to battery chargers.

As the day moved into evening Corbin looked at me and said “I think my mother forgot to come home.”  I assured him she had not forgotten.  It was just taking her longer than she thought.  When my daughter called to give me an update on her progress in getting back to pick the kids up I put Corbin on the phone so she could tell him she would be there soon.  Corbin’s response “okay, but I’m playing a game on the pad” and he handed the phone back to me.  So much for concern!

Then it gets dark.  Austin used to stay overnight with us all the time, but Corbin has never gone somewhere and spent the night without his mother and/or brother with him.    Not long before my daughter arrived to pick the kids up Corbin looked at me.  “I’m ready to go home now, Its dark and I don’t like to sleep other places.”

My daughter arrived to pick them up at 10:30 pm.  It was a fun day.  It was an exhausting day.  After they left I sat down in the chair for what I intended to be a 10 minute rest and woke up at 11:40 and went to bed.

When I think back over my day there is a song lyric playing in my mind:   The Mr. Mom song, remember it?  “Pampers melt in a Maytag dryer, crayons go up one drawer higher, rewind Barney for the 16th time, breakfast six, naps at nine.  There’s bubble gum in the baby’s hair, sweet potatoes in the lazy chair…been busy all week long, and it’s only Monday Mr. Mom.”

Exhausting as it was, I will always do it again, if for nothing more than the fun of grandchildren giggles.

 

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Filed under children, Family, grandchildren, home, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, play

Why do we have to play fair?

In my local newspaper this week there was a comic posted that said “and for those who did not graduate today…Please step to the stage to receive your Certificate of Participation.”

Sadly, that is what this country is coming to.  Those who achieve are not given proper recognition because it might hurt the feelings of those who did not achieve.

Earlier this month I learned about a Texas high school that would not allow students to wear their National Honor Society stoles during graduation. This is an honor, those students worked hard to achieve those honors and deserve the recognition.  What was the schools reason for banning the stole?  Administration was fearful that other students might feel excluded.EPSON MFP image

Hello world!  If you do not do the work to achieve then you should be excluded.  That is life!  That is reality!  How can we expect people to lead balanced, productive lives if they never learn that life isn’t fair.  Sometimes you win, sometimes you loose.  Regardless of what happens you continue to move forward and improve yourself.  You struggle, you push forward, you cope.

This is not a new thought process.  It began years ago.  When I was in school not everyone made the sports teams, not everyone won the spelling bee, not everyone was in the speedy readers group.  Some people just weren’t good enough.  If you participated in an activity some people got ribbons for winning, some people got nothing.  That was the way it was and we all knew it.  Whatever you were doing some received recognition for being the best, some people sat on the sidelines with a dream of someday achieving great things as well.  Dreams.  Goals.  Striving for a better future.

Then somewhere along the line people decided that wasn’t fair.  Every child should have the opportunity to be on the team.  Every child should be recognized for their participation.  Everyone should receive a special certificate, not just a chosen few.    It has to be fair, no one should feel left out.  No one should feel they have underachieved.

fair getting what need to be successfulHave we really done those children a favor?  I don’t believe so.  If a child never learns that sometimes life isn’t fair, that sometimes you win and sometimes you loose and that is okay, how can they learn to cope with the realities of life when they become an adult.  They don’t.  I think that is why we have so much violence, so many underachievers.  They never learned to push for the top.  It has been handed to them every step of the way.

I realize that there are some people who simply do not have the ability to achieve greatness.  They may have developmental disabilities, they may be physically impaired, That is okay.  People are different.  Don’t hand them a sympathy ribbon.  Let them compete at their own level with others on the same plateau they are and let them achieve greatness within a group of their own peers.  This will help them learn to work toward a goal and obtain recognition for hard work.

If we go back to letting children experience wins and losses they will learn to cope with life.  They will learn to set goals and improve themselves.  They will have more self-worth than they have by constantly receiving a token certificate of recognition.   Don’t they deserve that?  I think they do.

 

 

 

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Filed under children, Coping, decisions, education, Family, kids, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, parents, reality, school

Maybe On Thursday

DSC_8302Anyone who has spent time with young children will agree.  They are energetic, exhausting, non-stop movement, and most of all entertaining.  They will fill your world with knowledge you didn’t know was out there and if nothing else will bring a smile to your face.  In my case this week it was two of my grandchildren that filled the bill.DSC_8278

Tuesday morning I watched my 17 month old granddaughter and five year old grandson for a few hours while their parents went to an appointment.  Corbin, at five, is full of information and never fails to provide some tidbit that has its own unique quality.  Alexandria is a typical toddler who is full of energy, constantly moving, and plays with everything except her toys.

DSC_8310After they were dropped off Corbin immediately informed me that he brought Sissy with him so he would have someone to play with.  I guess “play with” is objectionable as he seemed to spend an equal amount of time complaining about her, and i don’t think he ever played with her.  Alexandria did tear apart the train track, steal the train signs, steel hot wheels cars, drink all of Corbin’s water, and more.

DSC_8267For the most part Corbin takes it all in stride.  After all, he knows how she came to be in his life.  You see Alexandria was growing in mommy’s tummy and a doctor had to cut her out because it wasn’t good.  When mommy ate Sissy took all the food.   Now I must say that is pretty good logic coming from the mind of a five year old.  Besides, I’m sure there are a lot of pregnant women out there who feel like the baby is taking all their food when they eat.

DSC_8335As I mentioned, Alexandria tore apart the railroad track and Corbin wasn’t able to get it back together.  That was never my area of expertise, my husband Ron always handled it, but since he passed in December it is one of those duties that now falls to me.  I worked my way behind the table to the spot where three pieces of track were separated.  As I was working I kept hearing a dinging noise, until Corbin said “you’re pushing on the RR Crossing sign.”    I wondered where the sound was coming from!DSC_8270

I worked and got the three pieces of track put back together.  I did feel a certain amount of accomplishment since getting them lined up and connected without accidentally tearing it apart elsewhere was a bit tricky.  When I finally got it done Corbin said “Good job!  I knew you could do it.”  Five year old grandsons are great for the ego!

DSC_8356And so our morning went, flying by quickly as it goes.  I did take a look at Corbin’s hands and told him he needed to go wash them.  Corbin’s response “No, maybe on Thursday.”  When I told him they needed to be clean for school Corbin responded that he isn’t going to school, he has to stay with me for forty-five days.   Yep, that was his plan and he never even told me.  Isn’t it nice to know there is a plan in place should the need arrive?

 

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Filed under children, Family, grandchildren, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir

Human Trafficking – closer to home than you think

Often when we hear news about something that is tragic we turn the other cheek, for those horrible things often happen in areas that are not near us or are removed enough that we feel we are safe.  What happens when you find out that you and/or your loved ones may not be safe?  Your sense of well-being is disturbed.

This is what happened when I found out about human trafficking in Michigan.  I feel safe in the area where I live and was shocked to find out that human trafficking is a very real concern for this area due to our close proximity to the border.  We always think something may happen to someone else, but not us.  Horrible things happen in other countries, but not ours…at least that is what we want to believe.

I was shocked to learn that Michigan is one of the top spots in the United States for human trafficking.  What was even more surprising was to learn that Michigan ranks no. 2 in the country for human trafficking in the sex trade. No. 1 is Nevada. Two of the things that make Michigan a primary spot is our close proximity to Canada and our waterways. They help make the exploitation of vulnerable persons in this state a lucrative business.

Human trafficking is modern day slavery. Force, fraud, and coercion to control are used to elicit commercial sexual acts, labor or service. Sex is conducted through brothels, escort services, fake massage businesses, and strip clubs. Labor is used in domestic work, small businesses, large farms and factories.

Human trafficking takes place in all fifty states and Washington DC. It is a highly lucrative trade. There are high profits and it is low risk. It is one of the most profitable criminal industries worldwide. As of June 30, 2015 there were 2,084 cases of sex trafficking nationally, and an estimated 1.5 million total victims of human trafficking in North America.  The going rate for humans on the global market is $90.00. Humans are sold and re-sold, yielding a nice profit for those in the business.

Labor trafficking is found in agriculture, manufacturing and construction jobs. Victims work in fields, factories, are denied their rightful earnings and live and/or work in deplorable conditions. Sex trafficking is found at Michigan truck stops, hotels and special events.  Victims are offered as sex toys at temporary brothels, sporting events, conventions, and large gatherings.

Teens and runaways are especially vulnerable. They are often enticed by promises of love, affection, and gifts. Guerilla tactics are also used, meaning violence, threats, and consequences if they do not comply with orders.   We must protect our youth from becoming victims of this crime. Educate them on the risks. Make sure they are aware of the tactics used to lure them in. This is a very real crime taking place in our own backyard. We need to take control and eliminate the risk to save our youth.

The National Human Trafficking Resource Center is open 24 hours per day, 7 days a week and can take calls in over 200 languages. They can be reached at 888-373-7888 or traffickingresourcecenter.org.

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Good Things and Goals

We rang in 2016 about 48 hours ago.  As goes with this time of year, many out there have posted their New Year’s Resolutions, and most will falter on completing them.   Why make resolutions when you can commit to Good Things and Goals?

In January 2015 I decided to do a “Good Things” Jar.  This is a jar that whenever something nice happens, it can be something as simple as a beautiful sunset to something much more complicated, but whatever it is it is something good that happened to you.  Jot it down on a piece of paper, date it, and drop it into the jar.  IMG_1574

The official instructions tell you to open the jar on New Year’s Even and read all the notes that you have in it, then put them back into the jar and save it so you can always pull those notes back out in the future if you choose.  I did a modified version of those instructions.

I filled my jar with lots of good things, which was a double bonus because it was also the last year my husband was alive.  What I did is on New Year’s Day I opened up my jar and took out and re-read all those notes and attached them to scrapbook pages with a few photos to add points of interest.  I am now re-using my empty jar for 2016.

IMG_1567I also decided that rather than have New Year’s Resolutions I am going to have monthly goals.  I will re-set my goals each month, and they can be repeating goals or things that are new.  What this does is provides short-term focus, mini accomplishments and the ability to re-evaluate the goals on a monthly basis to assist with motivation.  DSC_4892

My start-up goals for the month of January are to follow my diet beginning on Monday, January 4th, work on organizing my house at least three times a week with a minimum of two hours each session.  Clear the area around my exercise machine so I can use it, read at least three books per month and work on photographs (processing, uploading, etc.) at least once a week, and work on the preparations for the Celebration of Life in honor of my husband at least two times a week.

 

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Filed under Activities, children, habit, hobbies, Holidays, Life is a Melting Pot

Reflections at Christmas Time

This year will be different.  Christmas will be eighteen days after my husband, Ron, passed away.  I am still adjusting but overall have my head wrapped around it and am gradually moving forward with what will now be my “new normal” life.

I’m not having a problem, at least not now, with the idea that Ron will not be with us on Christmas day.  That day will play out almost like normal.   Time will tell, and the times when people aren’t here may be more difficult than when I have people here as a distraction.   In the meantime preparations have kept my mind distracted, decorating, wrapping gifts, and planning meals.

What I am finding is it is the little things you hear, or find, that can really hit the emotions.  Two or Three weeks before Ron passed two boxes arrived that said Precious Moments, I am a collector.  Ron told me not to open them, they were for Christmas.  He put them up in our bedroom closet and that is where they sat.  I went to get them and place them under the tree.  I will open them on Christmas Day and see what is in them.  I knew they were there so it was not an emotional situation, at least not until I saw a green plastic bag containing a box on top of them.  I looked inside and Ron had purchased a Christmas ornament while out west that he probably planned to give me at Christmas.  It was hand crafted metal works in the design of a motorcycle.  Ron knew that even now, five years after my accident, I still miss riding.  Discovery of the ornament and the emotional connection of his understanding that I still feel the loss of an activity I enjoyed came through that one Christmas ornament and hit me.

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A motorcycle ornament Ron purchased out west and had hidden with Christmas gifts. 

Little things impact you, and make you wonder why.  I put both pair of Ron’s eyeglasses into their case.  Then I stood there holding the case and had a hard time walking it over and tucking it onto the desk.  Why boxing up his glasses had such an emotional impact one can only wonder, but it did.

Small connections with people or comments they make can take you by surprise.  A a dental appointment last week a couple of the dental hygienists asked how Ron was doing.  One of them,. Patty, got teary eyed when I told her Ron had died.  Patty has been cleaning Ron’s teeth since around 1974 when he got out of the service and his mother told him to schedule a dental appointment because there was a cute new hygienist there.

There are other people I have talked to who when told of Ron’s passing said he used to talk about me all the time, that he was proud of me, that he was always talking about what I did, if I outscored him on photo competitions, and more.  I never knew he did that all the time.  People he had no need to share that with.    Then my mind questions whether I did equally as well for him.  Did I support him as well as he supported me?  I hope so, but the mind still ponders over it.

I am learning to do things I’ve never done, or rarely done in 34 years because Ron always handled them.  I have done the banking, paid bills, called the CPA for advise, and will be meeting the financial adviser for the first time ever.  I have done minor things such as take the trash out, bring in the mail, change a light bulb, and clean out the frig.

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Ornament given to me by Blue Water Hospice after Ron passed.

I know in the future I will encounter additional challenges, things I have never done.  If something breaks down I will have to call a repairman, when the cars need oil changes I will have to schedule appointments and get it taken care of.   I know furnaces need to have their filters changed, but when and how?   I don’t even know how to change the gas tank on our grill.  My “new normal” is a learning experience.  I hope I live up to the challenge.

So as we approach Christmas Day I reflect on the past.  Christmases of the past, New Year’s of the past, trips we have taken, traditions we held.   I will continue to hold those things dear as I forge ahead into building a new, different, life for myself.

 

 

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Filed under celebration, children, Coping, decisions, Discoveries, Family, Festivals, habit, Holidays, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, reality

Everyone Makes Mistakes

Everyone Makes MistakesWhen I saw this quote I knew I had to write about it.  It seems like today’s society is unwilling to forgive those who step outside the boundaries.  This happens to children when they are still very young and impressionable.  Even at a very young, vulnerable, age adults in their lives, usually teachers, adult family friends, members of their church, etc. will berate them if they falter.

A child’s mistake can be anything from forgetting to put on socks, messing up the freshly cleaned family areas of the home, getting into a fight at school, or committing some type of crime.  The child makes a mistake, deals with the consequences, and at this point life should go on, but it doesn’t.

The next time something goes wrong other children blame that child, because they know he/she will be an easy target.  If they faltered once, the adults will believe they have done it again.  The sad part is, when that repeatedly happens the child begins to feel they can do nothing right.  If a child is continuously blamed for everything that goes wrong, then eventually they will learn that no matter how hard they try, it simply isn’t going to matter because everyone will blame them for anything that happens anyway.

When a child, teen, or adult realizes that no matter what they do they will never be able to dig themselves out of a hole in which they are continually assumed to be at fault, they will eventually give up trying.  In addition to trying, they may begin to live up to the expectations of failure that are continuously being placed on them.

Now think about society.  People have lost their compassion, their value of human life.  Teens and adults become frustrated and take that frustration out by using guns to create mass murders.  It isn’t the gun’s fault, and maybe it isn’t even the child/teens fault.  It could be that society’s attitude has put that child/teen into a bad place, created someone that is unable to cope and feels like a failure.

Society needs to change.  People need to learn how to show compassion and understanding, how to give forgiveness.  People need to learn to accept those who are different, forgive those who falter, and move forward with a positive approach to everything.  That is how we fix what has gone wrong within our society.

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Living The Quote

We see them on Facebook.  Those little “images” of quotes that make you laugh, smile, or remind you of something about yourself or others you know.    I love those quotes.  I will spend time searching for them on various topics, saving them so I can repost them later.     Here are a few thoughts, quote style.

Trip over nothingI was born a klutz, there is no other explanation and as a result this quote fits me perfectly.  I can live in a house for years yet forget where the walls are and walk right into them.  I even walked into a clear glass window at the mall one time, thinking it was the exit from a store.  Just like in a TV show, full force impact with the glass, glass shakes, people stare, I feel stupid.

I even fell at my own wedding.  I stepped down from the alter, put my foot into the hoop of my wedding gown and although my husband tried to hold me up, it was useless and I went to my knees.  Luckily I am the type of person that laughs when embarrassed, so those wedding pictures of me coming down the isle show a huge laughing smile.Friends - best friends - don't talk every day but when do its as if you never stopped

I have a best friend who fits this quote perfectly.  We live three hours apart and maintain our friendship through occasional get-togethers or phone calls, but the majority of our contact is via email.  We became friends in 1978 and have had periods in which contact was almost non-existent, but when we re-connected it was great and we were not at a loss for words.

Photography - a love affair with lifeMy husband and I are both photographers, and anything and everything is a photo subject.  I believe photographers do have a love for life, and the ability to see beyond what the average person sees.

A non-photographer will take a walk down a path and enjoy the view and nature.  The photographer will walk that same path and find small, overlooked objects to photograph.  Fungus on a tree, moss on a log, spiders spinning webs or butterflies on weeds.  Photographers have a keen eye for seeing what others pass by.  I have started out on paths with people I know, but they ended up far ahead of me because I kept stopping to take pictures.  A lot of the items I captured with my camera they admitted they never noticed.

nothing is really lost till mom can't find itMoms have the ability to locate the lost, misplaced, items of life.  When my kids were young I would get a call at work, “mom, where is my __________?”  You know what the amazing thing is — I usually knew!  Why is it they are in the room and/or building where they item they lost is at, but I can find it through a telephone wire faster than they can find it standing in its location?  Why? Because I’m a mom!

walk in my shoes and end up at barMy husband and I have endured many things throughout our 33 year marriage.  Some people know what we have encountered, others have no clue.  When I met him he was in the midst of a very nasty divorce, we went through an entire custody trial regarding his daughter, we raised two children with ADHD, children who got into legal trouble, a severely injured grandchild and the dealings with CPS and DHS that followed, our son’s termination of his parental rights, our attempt to adopt our two granddaughters and the battle with DHS, health issues, and multiple other things.  A friend once said when you read my Christmas newsletters you have no idea the turmoil that is brewing beneath the surface.  I think the quote “walk a mile in my shoes” should be taken to heart with anyone you deal with, because you may not really know what they are coping with below the surface.motorcycle - you haven't lived till grin and bug

I used to ride motorcycle, until an unfortunate accident five years ago  made that impossible.  I do miss it though, and I think people that have never ridden do not understand what they are missing.  it is an intense sense of freedom and relaxation that cannot be met my any other means.  I must say this quote reminds me of the times when I have captured a bug in my throat — and why is it always when cruising down an expressway at 70 mph, never on a surface street where you can stop and force it down with some water out of a saddle bag.    Swallowing bugs is just one of the side “benefits” of riding motorcycle that does not accompany other fun activities.

I can’t believe I have already shared six quotes, and there are so many more I would like to share that fit into my life.  They will have to be saved for another time and place.  However I do want to remind my readers of my favorite quote, the one that hangs on the wall in my house, the one on which this entire blog is based.Life is like a camera

Never forget that Life is like a camera.  The quote that hangs on my wall of this saying is accompanied by photographs that depict each statement, and the display can be seen on this website.  Simply click on the link Life is Like A Camera to view it.

Quotes - Life Isn't about Quotes about lifeIf all else fails, search through quotes and find one that fits your life, makes you smile, or stirs a memory.  After all, there are quotes about everything, including the fact that Life isn’t about Quotes About Life — or is it????

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Learning to Live in a Language Based World

I am not a big fan of “Awareness” months, but I am going to make an exception.  I have a 9-year old grandson, Austin, who has Autism Spectrum Disorder.  When I was in college a few years back I was required to write a paper for an English and Culture class.   I chose to write about the difficulties people with Autism endure as they typically struggle with both social skills and communication.  Autism is a spectrum disorder, no two people are the same.  Each person is unique in which areas they are most challenged and to what degree.

Austin is doing well.  He is in a special needs class in second grade.  He is learning to read and has greatly expanded his ability to communicate and express needs since I wrote the paper.  What people need to understand is that although people with Autism have learning difficulties, they are intelligent people who are misunderstood and frequently have their abilities underestimated.  The trick is figuring out what needs to be done to communicate and get the message across to them.

I hope you will take the time to read the article I have posted below.  I would love to hear from those who deal with people who are autistic, people who themselves are autistic, or anyone who has read and learned about the struggles these people encounter in their every day lives.

Learning to Live
in a Language Based World

Imagine you need something but are unable to formulate the words to express your needs. How do you get someone’s attention? How do you communicate your wishes? This is the frustration a person with autism spectrum disorder deals with their entire life.

Cultures throughout the world are based on verbal communication and social interactions. A person with autism struggles to learn language, has difficulty holding a conversation, and lacks social skills. The inability to communicate can leave a person feeling lonely and isolated. An autistic person’s ability to live successfully in a language based world requires them to adjust to living outside their comfort zone. To help people with autism accomplish that goal, society needs to develop an understanding and compassion for the needs, feelings, frustrations and learning style of people with autism spectrum disorder.

As many as thirty percent (30%) of people with autism are unable to speak (Apps for Autism, 2011). Children with autism are found to have hyper-acute hearing that creates an inability to filter out and properly process ordinary everyday sounds. Buzzers, alarms, a dishwasher running, a lawn mower being used, and all the other miscellaneous sounds that the average brain filters out may sound as if they are on a super high volume and jumbled together to the autistic person.

The inability to properly process auditory input results in an inability to understand the meaning of words, an inability to express needs and wants, and a lack of social skills that leaves the autistic person feeling detached and unconnected to “normal” people (Notbohm, 2005). As Temple Grandin, who is autistic, said “There’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to communicate” (Valentine, 2006, para. 11).

Ellen Notbohm, author of Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew, stated “The ability to communicate, whether through spoken language, pictures, signing/semaphore or assistive technology, is bedrock” (2005, pp. xvii-xviii). “Words are the essential building blocks of spoken communication…” (McGregor, 2008, para 2). A child who lacks social skills, including the ability to read body language and facial expressions, finds communicating and fitting into society very difficult. The autistic child often stands out in society as a social oddball (Notbohm, 2005).

Children with autism are considered social outcasts because they lack the ability to communicate verbally and display behaviors that help them cope within their environment. People make negative assumptions that a child with autism is unwilling to cooperate, temperamental, and lacking in intelligence. Autistic children are known for their “meltdowns”. A meltdown is an autistic child’s manner of communicating to the outside world that there is something wrong. The child can be hungry, thirsty, cold, tired, or any other range of things. The adult has to figure out what the trigger to the meltdown is because the child is unable to express their need. It is important to remember that behavior is a way of communicating, and that a child who lacks verbal skills is unable to tell you what is wrong (Notbohm, 2005).

As the grandmother of an autistic child I have witnessed meltdowns and how they can easily be remedied by analyzing what the trigger is. Meltdowns in public can be exceptionally frustrating when people who do not know the child feel free to make rude, insulting remarks about their behavior. When my grandson, Austin, was two years old I was trying to put him into his car seat and he was arching his back, crying and kicking. “All behavior is communication” and “all behavior happens for a reason” (Notbohm, 2005, pp. 21, 22).

Austin’s behavior was because he hadn’t said goodbye to grandpa, who had ridden to the park in a different vehicle. Austin’s behavior confused me; what upset me was a man parked beside us. As I lifted Austin out of the car during the meltdown the man said very clearly “what a spoiled brat.” Looking back I wish I had taken the time to express what I thought of his rude behavior and assuming comments about a child he did not know. The man’s behavior is best summed up by Temple Grandin, “Normal people have an incredible lack of empathy…they don’t have much empathy for the autistic kid who is screaming at the baseball game because he can’t stand the sensory overload. Or the autistic kid having a meltdown…I’m frustrated with the inability of normal people to have sensory empathy.” (Valentine, 2006, para. 24 ). A child who lacks the ability to communicate normally in a social situation needs understanding and assistance. They should not have to endure insults and rejection from adults.

It is important to create circumstances where the autistic child can practice social skills with success. “Social navigation is necessary at every turn in our lives: at home, at work, at school, in our travels about the community, in our shopping, recreation and worship.” (Notbohm, 2005, p. 71) It is important to understand that fitting into society socially requires a tremendous amount of effort from the person with autism. The autistic person must learn to cope with the demands of society while trying to understand what is expected of them and using what abilities they have to make those adjustments. (Notbohm, 2005).

In Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew the seventh item on the list is “Help me with social interactions” (Notbohm, 2005, p. xxviii). A child with autism may feel lonely and left out because they lack the social skills to enter a play situation or start a conversation. They may not be able to talk to the other children and are unable to read facial expressions, body language or emotions of others. It is easy to assume the child doesn’t want to participate in activities, but what they really need is guidance on how to join the fun.

The way to successfully teach a child with autism spectrum disorder is to focus on their positive abilities. The autistic child may lack the ability to process verbal information, but they are usually very good at paying attention and are visual learners (Gordon, 2007, para. 3). The sixth item listed in Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew is “Because Language is so difficult for me, I am very visually oriented. Please show me how to do something rather than just telling me.” This is followed by the seventh item, “Please focus and build on what I can do rather than what I can’t do” (Notbohm, 2005, pp. xxvi, xxvii).

A child cannot learn and function well in an environment where they are made to feel that they are not good enough. Often peers, teachers, siblings, and relatives focus on what the child is not doing, rather than what the child’s strengths are (Notbohm, 2005). A computer can help an autistic person with both learning and social skills. The computer is not critical and has unlimited patience, allowing the child to repeat skills as needed until the task is mastered.

The Apple iPad and other tablet computers are offering special applications that allow people with autism to communicate. By using pictures or characters on the computer screen the autistic person is able to make selections and use the computer to “speak” on their behalf. The computer allows the autistic person to voice their thoughts and needs, helping them to function in society.

A 60 Minutes episode called Apps for Autism: Communicating on the iPad featured the utilization of computer applications for people with autism. The use of tablet computers was demonstrated by Joshua Hood, 27 years old, who was unable to communicate until he received the Apple iPad. Joshua is now able to go to a restaurant and use the picture apps on the iPad to order his own meal. Prior to receiving the iPad Joshua rarely looked at people, but the iPad has given him the ability to interact with others. His therapist, Tammy Taylor, said “He’s part of the community. I mean, communication is the essence of being human. And here he is, communicating fully now” (Apps for Autism, 2011).

The use of computer applications is allowing professionals to realize how intelligent people with autism are, people that were once considered to have below average intelligence. At the Beverly School in Toronto, Canada half the students are severely autistic. The impact of the iPad is demonstrated by its effect on the attention span and willingness of those children to socialize. Ten year old Nuno does not talk and was believed to have the intelligence of a toddler. An iPad vocabulary application was used to test Nuno. The school was amazed at Nuno’s vocabulary and learned that he has a love of classical music and opera (Apps for Autism, 2011).

Whether a person with autism is learning to communicate through the use of a computer or through traditional learning methods, it is important to understand the stages of their learning and the need to guide them in developing social skills. Speech and language deficiency are defining characteristics of autism spectrum disorder, but it is important to remember that each person is an individual, with their areas of difficulty and ability to learn unique to them. An awareness of whether the person is mindful of being spoken to, if they try to communicate in any form, and whether they are attempting to use speech is important. If they are talking, are they speaking naturally or are they echolalic? A child that is echolalic will repeat sounds or words that are spoken to them, which indicates that the child can perceive and articulate speech (Gordon, 2007, para. 5).

A child that is using echolalia to communicate can create the impression that they are understanding and using language in a comprehensive manner, when in reality they are not. Temple Grandin was teased as a teenager because when she talked she reused the same phrases, and kept talking without letting other people respond.

Some people with autism do not have a problem with the mechanics of language, but they do not understand the process of having a conversation (Hamilton, 2006). Echolalia are messages that are memorized from the world to compensate for language deficits. These can be groups of words they have heard people say, or phrases from TV shows or movies. The person with autism does not necessarily understand what they are saying, but they know that a specific set of words can be used to provide a reply, ask for something, protest, or deny requests (Notbohm, 2005). This was used by my grandson when he needed help. It started when Austin would need assistance on the computer, he would come up and rub a person’s hand or arm and say “sorry”. We would respond “what do you need?” and taught him to reply “help on the computer”. It wasn’t long before that memorized set of words was used for anything he needed help with, be it the computer, opening a door, or getting something from the refrigerator. “Help on the computer” was a set of words that got someone to come and give assistance.

Whether a person with autism is learning to speak, using a computer for communication, or exercising echolalia to converse, it is important to remember that “…having a means of functional communication, whatever it may be, is what’s truly essential, to any child, but even more so to the child with autism” (Notbohm, 2005, p. 42). It is also important to reward the autistic child’s efforts to communicate in a positive way. My daughter always asks Austin if he wants chicken nuggets, then she makes the decision on whether to get him just the nuggets or a happy meal. A few weeks ago she asked Austin if he wanted chicken nuggets and he said yes. When she pulled into the McDonald’s drive-thru from the backseat she heard “chicken nuggets, French fries, chocolate milk, trick-or-treat”. His statement was rewarded with a full happy meal, all the items he requested in the Halloween trick-or-treat bucket. Verbal interactions and positive results help the child learn not only the mechanics of speech, but also how to use them to function in society.

Understanding the way an autistic person processes information and the way they are best able to learn is imperative to helping them fit into their community. Whether the person is able to converse, speaks in echolalia, utilizes a computer application, or demonstrates coping behaviors, it is important to recognize and accept them as a growing, feeling, human being who is trying to adapt to the world around them. As Temple Grandin said, “normal people find it difficult to put themselves in an autistic person’s shoes and see the world from their perspective” (Valentine, 2006, para. 4). For a person with autism spectrum disorder to live successfully in a language based world, society must learn to recognize the needs, feelings and frustrations these people experience on a daily basis and make appropriate accommodations for them to function within their community.

References
*  Apps for Autism: Communicating on the iPad. (2011, October 23). 60 Minutes. New York, New York. Retrieved October 23, 2011, from http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7385686n&tag=contentmain;contentBody

*  Gordon, B. (2007, April 2). Speech and Language Problems in Autism Pectrum Disorders. Retrieved from Kennedy Krieger Institute: http://www.iancommunity.org/cs/articles/speech_and_language_problems

*  Hamilton, J. (2006, July 9). Autism Reveals Social Roots of Language. Retrieved from NPR: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5503688

*  McGregor, K. B. (2008, October 6). Learning Word Meanings. Retrieved from Kennedy Krieger Institute: http://ww.iancommunity.org/cs/articles/wordmeanings

*  Notbohm, E. (2005). Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew. Arlington, Texas: Future Horizons, Inc.

*  Valentine, V. a. (2006, July 9). Q&A: Temple Grandin on Autism & Language. Retrieved October 2011, from NPR: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5488844

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Filed under assumptions, children, Coping, decisions, disabilities, Family, grandchildren

WHEN DID STOVE TOP STUFFING OFFER A FREE MICROWAVE DISH?

Why do they have four complete sets of frying pans?  Look at all this new bake wear.  Why in the world would people who rarely ate tacos have six jars of taco sauce?

These are questions that went through the minds of my sister and I as we were cleaning out the kitchen of our parents a couple weeks ago.  The first of many trips I will be making since our father passed away in December and our mother about 19 months ago.  Obviously this is a task that is a lot of work but also good for laughs and memories.  They moved into the house in 1966 when my sister and I were young children, so we will be at this task for quite a while.

We have decided to do the distribution of property in an amicable arrangement.  If only one of us wants something it is theirs.  If both of us want the same item it goes into a group of items we will resolve later, probably by taking turns selecting from the group.  If neither of us wants something but one of our children (who are all adults) do, they get it.  We decided the kitchen and pantry would be our starting point.

Linda wanted a set of Corelle Casserole dishes.  Done.  Caroline needed a spaghetti cooker.  Done.  Carol got a complete set of cookware, looks brand new.  I took some new baking pans and a large Pyrex mix and pour.    What no one wanted we condensed into a couple cupboards for a garage sale later.  Now to tackle the food.

Stove Top Stuffing Mix with Microwave Dish.  How old could this be?

Stove Top Stuffing Mix with Microwave Dish. How old could this be?

What in the world were they thinking?  Did they do any clean outs of expired items?  Did they forget what they had purchased and buy more?  Questions we can only speculate on the answer of.    One unique find was a box of Microwave Stove-Top Stuffing Mix that included its own microwave pan.  No expiration date on the box.  Good Grief — how long ago was that purchased?

People that rarely made tacos had six jars of taco sauce.  Dad used BBQ sauce a log in his cooking, but approximately 16 bottles of the stuff seems excessive, and the list goes on.  Sadly, most of the items are expired and when the weather warms up will be hauled out and trashed

We did end up with a small collection of canned food that is still good.  My sister referred to this as my “If you get snowed in” collection because I travel from 2-1/2 hours away and stay at the house; she lives in the same town.  Nice to know that in a moment of need I have three cans of soup, some canned peaches and pears, and a few cans of wax beans.  I can only hope if it happens it is a small storm.  I may have to sustain myself on coffee and tea, of which we found an ample supply.

My Dad and a gun.  he was about 3 years old at the time.

My Dad and a gun. he was about 3 years old at the time.

Me around 1980.

Me around 1980.

My parents with my sister and I.  I'm the older daughter in the back.

My parents with my sister and I. I’m the older daughter in the back.

We did take a break by going through some old photos, both from our childhood and antique family pictures.  We both started snapping pictures of the pictures with our cell phones and sharing them on our individual Facebook pages.  Fun memories and a great way to end what was the first of many trips to come.

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Filed under children, death, decisions, Family, sisters

It All Began In The Cherry Capitol of the World

From the Cherry Capitol of the World to the place with the world’s highest ski jump, a quick stop in Portage Michigan, then to an Island City, from there to a home where the city name changed three times and finally the place of the world’s longest board walk on a very busy shipping channel.  Have you ever thought about the places you have lived in your lifetime?  That first sentence gives a brief overview of mine.  I was thinking about it one day.  I have lived in some pretty interesting and unique places in my lifetime.

Traverse City Cherry Trees an Grand Traverse Bay in the background.  Photo obtained online.

Traverse City Cherry Trees an Grand Traverse Bay in the background. Photo obtained online.

The Cherry Capitol of the World, Traverse City, is where I was born. My genealogy includes the Lautner family who were some of the original settlers of the area.    My paternal grandmother was a Lautner, she grew up on part of the original Lautner Settlement on M-72 in a home built by her father when she was six years old.  She lived in that same home until her late 80’s when she placed herself into assisted living.  When I was growing up we traveled to Traverse City often, staying with my grandparents and visiting other relatives.  We rarely did any of the tourist stuff, the one exception being the National Cherry Festival, which happens every July in Traverse City.  Special parades every day,carnival, and of course farmers selling fresh cherries in small stands everywhere you go.  If you have never visited the Traverse City area I recommend you spend some time there.  From the lighthouses on Old Mission Peninsula and Leelenau Peninsula, the Casinos, Grand Traverse Bay, and more, it is a beautiful area.

This past summer I visited the town where my parents moved to when I was a toddler, Iron Mountain, Michigan.  Located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula about midway across, this small historic town sits right on the border of Wisconsin and is home to the word’s highest artificial ski jump.  Pine Mountain Ski Jump has a scaffold that is 186 feet high and the length of the slide is 381 feet.  You can climb the stairs to the base of the jump or drive a winding road to the top of the hill for a spectacular view.   This is also the location of the Upper Peninsula Veterans Memorial Site, dedicated in 2006.  This memorial honors those from all 15 counties of the Upper Peninsula who served in Vietnam, Lebanon-Granada, the Gulf War, Korea, World War I and World War II.    Space has been reserved to honor those who have served in the war taking place in the middle east.   There are many things to do in the area, but one thing to remember is that the city’s name comes from the valuable iron that was found and mined in the area and a few minutes downthe road in Vulcan you can tour the Iron Mountain Iron Mine.  The mine tour lets you experience the conditions under which men worked at a time when there was no modern technology.  What they accomplished is amazing.

Pine Mountain Ski Jump, Iron Mountain, Michigan.  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014.

Pine Mountain Ski Jump, Iron Mountain, Michigan. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014.

The next stop on my list of places I have lived is Portage Michigan.  I was still young at the time, it is where I attended Kindergarten and began first grade.  Portage is close to Kalamazoo, the home of Western Michigan University and is located less than 30 miles from Battle Creek, the cereal city, home to both Kelloggs and Post cereal companies.  In preparing for this posting I learned that Portage is home to the Air Zoo which houses over 60 rare and historic aircraft.  The Air Zoo also offers indoor amusement park style rides, interactive exhibits, flight simulators and a 4D theater.    We only lived a short time in Portage before making the final move of my childhood.

In 1966  we moved to The Only Eaton Rapids on Earth, an island city located south of our state’s capitol, Lansing.  This is the town I consider my home town, residing there from the time I was six years old until I married and moved away just before my 21st birthday.  It is a unique small town with lots of local history.  Home to Miller Ice Cream, the VFW National Home and was once a booming tourist area due to mineral springs.  Eaton Rapids was founded in 1838, became a city in 1881, and is named after the youngest member ever to join the U.S. Senate, John Henry Eaton.  That and the presence of rapids in the nearby Grand River created the towns name.  It is referred to as an island city because the downtown area is completely surrounded by water.  If you pay attention when driving around town you are constantly crossing bridges everywhere you go.  Not only that, but if you live in the town you know that going to “the island” refers to an island park located near the downtown area.  The island itself is one of many Michigan Historical Sites in the town.   Another historical sight is the VFW National Home, created in 1924 when Corey J. Spencer donated a 472 acre farm to be used as a home for widows and orphans of veterans of the wars of the country.  It is the only home of its kind in the country and is still in operation today.  As a final note on the town’s second nickname, E.E. Horner, while President of Horner Woolen Mills, was on a trip to England and wrote home with an address of only  “Eaton Rapids.”  The postcard arrived at its proper destination and the town became known as “The Only Eaton Rapids on Earth.”

Eaton Rapids Island Park as viewed from Hamlin Street foot bridge.  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014.

Eaton Rapids Island Park as viewed from Hamlin Street foot bridge. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014.

When I married I left Eaton Rapids and moved to Utica, Michigan, which is where my husband and I built our first home in 1983.  The area we built in was experiencing a lot of growth and over the years city boundaries were adjusted and changed so that our house began as part of Utica, became part of Mount Clemens, then Macomb.

Utica is located in Macomb County and was originally platted in 1829.  The city suffered fires in 1905 and 1906 so only has a few buildings prior to those dates.

Mount Clemens is also a town in Macomb County and was first surveyed in 1795 by Christian Clemens.   Christian Clemens and John Brooks platted the land, built a distillery and the area was incorporated as a village in 1851 and a city in 1879.  Mount Clemens became the county seat of Macomb County in 1818.  Mount Clemens was once a booming town well known for its mineral baths from 1873 to 1974.   Surburban expansion in the area continued and we were notified that the area we lived in was once having a city name change from Mount Clemens to Macomb.

The change to Macomb occured in the 1990’s, but the growth was so substantial that between 2000 and 2008 the population increased by 48%.  Macomb Township has no incorporated villages but has three unincorporated commnities:  Meade on the northewast portion of the township, Waldenburg in the central portion of the townships and Macomb, where we lived, in the northwest part of the township.    You may think that Macomb was created during the period of growth, but the Township of Macomb was officially approved by the legislative council on May 7, 1834 and is named in honor of General Alexander Macomb, a highly decorated veteran of the War of 1812.    A variety of factors, including the rapid expansion of the area in which we lived let us to St. Clair, Michigan.

In 2003 we left Macomb behind and purchased a house in St. Clair, Michigan.  This is a very scenic and historical area in which to vacation or reside.     The city has an extensive history and its name is believed to have been derived from three different sources.  One of those is that it honors Patrick Sinclair, who purchased land on the St. Clair River and in 1764 built Fort Sinclair.  In addition to the longest freshwater boardwalk in the world located on the beautiful St. Clair River, a busy shipping channel that runs between the United States and Canada and has more shipping traffic than the Suez Canal and Panama Canal combined, the town is home to Cargill Salt (formerly Diamond Crystal).  Diamond Crystal began operation in 1887 of a large solution salt mine and evaporation facility.  This is the only salt plant in the United States that produces Alberger salt, a special fine salt used on products such as potato chips, fast food french fries, etc.   The history of St. Clair industry is extensive, including the sawmill industry, shipbuilding, and in the late 1800s became a well-known resort with luxurious hotels offering mineral baths with passenger steam ships stopping at hotel docks on a daily basis.    Today St. Clair offers a Marina, Palmer Park, Alice Moore Center for the Arts, Alice Moore Woods, Michigan Historical Sites and a museum.   A unique place to visit and live.

Palmer Park boardwalk and St. Clair River, St. Clair Michigan.  Photo by Grace Grogan.

Palmer Park boardwalk and St. Clair River, St. Clair Michigan. Photo by Grace Grogan.

Will I someday reside in other places?  I can not be sure.  My husband and I purchased property years ago on a mountain in Tennessee, but for various reasons have determined that we will not be moving there and have put the property up for sale.  At one time we planned to become full-time RV people, living and traveling the country in our motor home.  Again, life brings changes and it is debatable whether that will ever happen.  As for now, we are residing in the beautiful Blue Water Area and enjoying our spare time as photographers, capturing everything the area has to offer and making our images available for sale at local art studios, Mercy Hospital in Port Huron, and on Fine Art America.

Where have you lived in your lifetime?  How many times have you moved?  Please share in the comment section.

 

 

 

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Filed under children, decisions, Family, home, kids, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, Michigan, parents, time, travel, Upper Penninsula

Merry Christmas

My Christmas Tree.  Photo by Grace Grogan

My Christmas Tree. Photo by Grace Grogan

Wishing Everyone a Merry Christmas.

This year we had family Christmas with my sister, her daughters and grandchildren on the 21st of December, followed by Christmas with my daughter, three grandsons and daughter’s boyfriend on Christmas Eve.  All previous years Caroline came

Caroline with her three children, Alexandria, Corbin and Austin; Linda with her two Children, Aiden and Marney.

Caroline with her three children, Alexandria, Corbin and Austin; Linda with her two Children, Aiden and Marney.

over with her kids on Christmas Day after they had opened gifts at home, but this year we had to make different arrangements.

Our oldest grandson, Austin, was leaving at 9 pm Christmas Eve to spend the rest of his Christmas vacation at his father’s house. This created a bit of a dilemma as my daughter’s boyfriend, Rob, had to work the morning of Christmas Eve, so it raised a problem with when Santa should arrive. The solution – Santa came to our house, left a note explaining why all the gifts were here and not at their house.

Corbin and Austin

Corbin and Austin

Once Rob was out of work they all came over to our house, arriving around 2 pm for pizza and gift opening. This worked out perfect as Austin was then able to go home and play his new and #1 gift wish, Skylander, before leaving to go to his dad’s for the rest of his Christmas break. Corbin, who will be 4 on the 30th of December, was thrilled with his Thomas The Train tracks, his fire engines and cars.  He is a kid that likes anything with wheels, but his number one love is trains.  Alexandria, just born on the 12th of December slept through the entire event.  She looked adorable in her “Baby’s First  Christmas” shirt sleeping away.

Ron and I waited until the gang had left before we opened our main gifts for ourselves — new Nikon D750 Cameras and gear.  Since we had no children in the house or gifts to open on Christmas morning, we were able to spend the time figuring out our new cameras and getting them programmed the way we wanted.

I hope all of you had a fun-filled Christmas celebration.

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Filed under children, Family, grandchildren, Holidays, Life is a Melting Pot